Sunday, 24 March 2013

In Search of Inspiration

There is a strange hard to define relationship between writing and reading: the active and passive, the productive and receptive, with the book existing somehow as a cipher, the common denominator, between the two.

On my recent visit to Paris, emerging, as I was, from a particularly protracted period of ‘writer’s block’, it was my expressed intention to walk the city streets in search of inspiration; of ideas to somehow shake off the spell and be able to start writing again. Given that so many writers, particularly those of the so-called ‘lost generation’, had made their home here and had written their way into the literary heritage of the city - Joyce, Stein, Hemingway, Miller to name but a few, perhaps somehow, in some mysterious way, I could engage with the latent energies of the place that might feed into my own blocked creative well springs.
From boarding the Eurostar at St Pancras International, London, my journey seemed destined to be marked by bookish themes, which I determined to see as a positive sign. First there were my fellow passengers, whiling away their journey lost in the private worlds contained between the covers of their chosen books. 

Private worlds ...

I can rarely read on journeys, preferring instead to watch the scenery outside the window and muse on life in passing; or else people watch - my fellow passengers in this case. These seemed divided between those quietly reading and others determined to pass the time carousing and singing a particularly bawdy genre of song that, after a while, moved me to stand up and suggest that, as a ‘captive audience’, the rest of the coach took a vote on what they were singing and whether we really did want to hear it or not ... No danger of the literary or artistic here!
Time passed and we eventually made it into the Gard du Nord some two hours late, and me from thence to my Left Bank hotel, hungry.  Later still, I wandered out into the evening and first spent some time perusing books in that well known literary outlet Shakespeare and Company, (conveniently situated just round the corner from where I stay) where, back in the 1920s, Hemingway had been used to borrow books from the proprietor Silvia Beach. There were stacks of different Hemingway books there, but I’m not a particular fan of his style, so I moved on in search of others and came upon Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, flicked through it at random, to be struck immediately by the all pervasive sexually explicit motifs (oddly reminiscent of those bawdy songs sung back on the Eurostar a few hours earlier).
 
 Good eats or good reads?
 
 I didn’t really have the appetite for light reading of the Miller variety either, so I eventually made my way to a little eating establishment close by for more conventional fare, and settled for an appealing sounding plat du jour. The atmosphere was cosy and intimate, the place bustling with Parisian diners of every kind, but the walls were lined with books, which seemed rather an oddity for an eating establishment. Of course you can devour a good book, but not literally in a restaurant!  A grotesque statue of an immensely obese man seated close by suggested eating disorders of a more serious variety than simply the consumption of good literature however.

Book addict?
 
The rest of my stay was to be divided between wandering either through art galleries of the conventional variety to indulge my taste in Impressionist and Post Impressionist painting, or that immense free open gallery - the Parisian street - which supplies the passer by with an eclectic array of street art and graffiti of just about every order.

Street life
 
There was time, too, to take in a visit to my favourite jazz club the night before boarding the Eurostar back to London. My trip to the City of Lovers (and writers and artists) was over; for now anyway. Greeting me upon my arrival back at St.Pancras International was the large statue of the poet Sir John Betjeman, gazing skyward at clouds which inspired these famous lines:
“And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.”
An inspired poet ...
 
Only time will tell whether I have been so creatively inspired myself!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Reflections on a Journey, or Paris Revisited



An end to writer's block?

Over eighteen months has passed since my last blog entry on 15th June 2011, when I made my final ‘Bonds Skin Instantly’ post. Perhaps, with some predictive poetic irony, I have been stuck ever since! But whatever happened in that intervening time, the important thing is that I have finally prised myself free and I’m now back to the world of blogging, and to social networking in general, ready to start over again afresh. And back, too, from my latest trip to Paris...

So where better to start than where I left off then? It’s rather like going back to pick up a dropped stitch. And whenever I need to touch creative base, to return to my artist’s roots, I generally feel called back to Paris, which, it seems, is a good ‘launch pad’ to restart the Wayward Lady blog.

What, then, do I remember of Paris? Streets wet after rain and glinting with newly broken sunbeams. Coffee and croissants and cocktails, and the slow eddying flow of the Seine replete with barges and boats bearing tourists onwards, ever onwards. Nights crowded with the clutter of diners in every street side brasserie and bar; a buzz of bright broad boulevards and stately trees, all a-rush in the rush of the morning, busy far into the nights. I remember Paris, its stateliness and grandeur; its rakish grace.
  

Rakish grace
 
But I have to say that this time as much as anything I was struck by the expense too. With the Euro and Stirling nearly at parity, there were some nasty experiences in store for me, like paying €20 for a very ordinary croque monsieur (toasted cheese and ham sandwich to most of us), chips and a glass of wine at one of those charming street side brasseries once extolled in my City of Lovers poem, when caught out for lunch between two sets of Impressionist paintings at the Musee de l’Orangerie and the Musee d’Orsay, in a cheap eatery desert.



A Parisian speciality - cheese on toast

There were several similar experiences, but I won’t recount them all. Suffice to say you pay (dearly at times) for that charm of Paris, for that coffee at a street side bar, particularly if it comes with a croissant. And I must confess that I after a while I ducked out of the‘authentic experience’ and found cheaper but still palatable refreshments in the local Starbucks instead!
 
 
The authentic experience
 
Writing, Art and Love (not necessarily in that order) are three primordial genres invoked by Paris and so many writers, artists and lovers - some famous, many unknown, have lived there over the centuries. Good food might also be cited by many too, yet limited funds and my croque monsieur experience put paid to any Michelin starred aspirations for this trip. So if Art and Love were the focus for my Parisian blogs of April 2011, then let me turn my attention this time (or this post) to the bookish. Right from the journey’s start on the Eurostar from London, through to the famous bookstore 'Shakespeare and Company' on the Seine’s Left Bank, to visiting the haunts of ‘Lost Generation’writers like Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Stein, Miller and Orwell, bookish themes leant a strong flavour to my trip.
.

A lost generation?
 
And given I am once again poised on the brink of re-entering the world of the aspiring writer, and perhaps more particularly of the self-published Indie author, then the bookish flavour of this trip was evidently auspicious, setting the tone for what (I hope) is to follow.
 
So readers are cordially invited to watch this space afresh, as, over the weeks, I develop both some of those themes let go many months ago and others entirely new..


 
Not Stratford-Upon-Avon


 
Reflections on a Journey

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bonds Skin Instantly

The secret price of fashion

I am pleased and relieved to report I have finally managed to prize my thumb off my big toenail. No, this isn't, in fact, the reason why I have been absent from the world of blogging and social networking for the last two weeks. Other, deeper, more personal and arcane reasons altogether are responsible, so being glued to my toenail probably stands as a useful sort of metaphor and readers will have to ponder the real reason (if they could ever be bothered ...).

But why such a predicament in the first place? The story is (as you might expect) long ... or at least has its origins in the mists of time, back when I was a girl and one of my aunt's horses trod its heavily shod hoof upon my hapless toe, seriously damaging the nail. And, be it years later, off it eventually had to come. But although losing a toenail isn't really such a big deal (there are many worse things to lose as we all know), in summer, with open toed shoes and sandals, it does pose a problem, if only cosmetically.

I think I must have been one of the first people to dream up applying stick on false finger nails to solve the problem (now you can actually get false toenails too). My sister - a podiatrist - applauded the solution and now even recommends it to those of her patients with similar problems. It's very effective! Painted over with colourful nail polish no-one ever knows. Of course there have been the odd awkward occasions when I have tripped over something and then the nail flips dramatically off, to the clear horror of uninitiated observers: "Oh my God, your toe nail ....!"

But real the problem is applying the nail in the first place, which brings us to the sticky world of Super Glue. I never know how much is enough (even now) and usually apply too much, which then oozes everywhere and, as you have to hold the nail down firmly with your thumb for several seconds to get it to stick, there is always the scary moment when you realise that your thumb and the nail have bonded - in perpetuity. Sometimes (as today) you even get stuck to the floor ...

There has to be a tale in this somewhere, some deeper underlying significance, which I will leave readers to ponder, as it eludes me. In the meantime I continue with nervous panicky feelings every time summer (or open-toed shoe occasions) present and a new toenail application must be contemplated. Being such a slave to your image comes at a price I guess.

A sticky end



Acknowledgments
Images of painted toenails and Super Glue were both taken from the web.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Versatile Blogger

I have Jane Lovering  (From Behind the Keyboard) to thank for this. She has nominated me for a 'Versatile Blogger Award'! Here's what it looks like:


Now apparently all I have to do is this: tell you seven things about myself of interest, generally 'not known' (intriguing, shady, weird etc) and nominate seven other bloggers to pass this onto.

What has been holding me back is finding seven previously un-nominated bloggers from the list of those I do follow, several of whom already have the award (like Jane herself). This includes:


and somehow I can't imagine that, at some stage, the inimitable Derek Haines hasn't been awarded a 'Versatile Blogger Award' himself, being, manifestly, a 'Versatile Blogger'
 

However, finally, with patience and persistence, I have come up with seven lucky people to name (see below).

The next bit is (relatively) easy. Seven previously unknown/an-admitted (publicly that is) facts about me.


Mercy Stealing

1. First and worst. Very many years ago in the days of my misspent youth, I was a gnome nicker (yes, I do mean 'gnome nicker'). This shady and thoroughly reprehensible activity took place at summer time when I was volunteering 'digging' on archaeological sites in the south of England. After a hard day on site and an equally hard evening down at the pub, we (you see I was just one of several) 'liberated' the odd (very odd) garden gnome which was then ceremonially barbecued. Even though we tried to couch it as 'mercy stealing' it was still 'stealing'. Hangs head in shame ... (have to confess the sight of those silly inane plastic beards, pointy hats and sillier smiles sagging and melting into the flames was rather entertaining though ...).


Hero of a lifetime

2. Altogether more elevating than the above. Having spent much of my life as an archaeologist, I must confess that I always really wanted to be a zoologist. I fell in love with South America as a young girl, but only because I had fallen in love with David Attenborough and his 'Zoo Quest' programmes.  He was then my inspiration across years and recipient of the only 'fan letter' I ever wrote (which he graciously replied to). I have ever avidly watched 'Natural World' type documentaries and even latterly, programmes such as 'Big Cat Diary' have the power to make me feel wistful. Never quite knew why I ended up as an archaeologist instead.


Improbable pumpkins

3. I once had the surreal experience of telling the story of Cinderella to an Ecuadorean port official on board a banana boat crewed by a Chinese crew with a Geordie captain in the port of Puerto Bolivar, Machala, Ecuador. We were both a bit drunk at the time. I don't think he ever realised it was actually a fairy story I was telling him. He particularly didn't get the bit about the pumpkin.


In my dreams

4. Although I fell in love with flamenco dancing in Seville, Spain, I actually learned (well nearly) to dance it in Edinburgh, Scotland (where else do you learn to dance flamenco?!). No Highland Flings for me (despite being half Scottish)!

 In my dreams (the karate, not the man)

5. I am not a fan of sport, but have been known to 'dabble' in martial arts. I once gained a 'belt' (of the lowliest order) in Shotokan Karate ... until a severe case of 'archaeologists' knee' intervened and prevented me from continuing (well, a good excuse at the time).

6. I have always wanted to be able to be able to play a musical instrument, but specifically the saxophone. In fact, I can't play any musical instrument ( a 'regret').

In my dreams

7.  From time to time I have 'dabbled' in a little shamanism (of the native South American sort mostly)!


Amazonian Shaman

And that's about it!  So now, my nominees for the 'Versatile Blogger Award' are:
My apologies to these lucky nominees, who may, in fact, not thank me for so honouring them!

Now, hopefully, I have earned my 'Versatile Blogger' award. Onwards and up ....


Acknowledgements
Photos and Images used for this Post:

All images used in this post are, for convenience, taken from the web, excepting the Amazonian Shaman, who I was able to take in person (Cuyabeno Reserve, eastern Ecuador).

Sunday, 22 May 2011

First Love: Come to Peru!


Peruvian girls

How many of you have ever visited South America or Peru, or have ever wanted to? Yet since I was a very small child this was my one dream: that one day I would go the South America and more especially to Peru. It was the land of my dreams!

So now, the first of my Travel Pages - the Big Apple - is 'up and out'. I hope there will be many visitors to the Page who will want to read and add their own views and experiences. But this is just the beginning. The next in my new Wayward Travel is Peru and Lima, to be followed shortly by Peru and the Incas.

Peru, I must confess, was my 'first love'. Since a young girl I fell in love with the thought of South America, but particularly of Peru, of the Incas, and all that meant. And although one day I dreamed I would go there, I never realised how long it would take to realise this dream. Later I went to the University of London to read Archaeology and to specialise in South American archaeology, always with the aim to end up in Peru, but I was rather swept off course and ended in the country just to its north - Ecuador. And there I stayed over many years, carrying out programmes of archaeological research there instead.

Elusively, teasingly, Peru remained just over the borders; always there, but never the time to be able to take to visit. How it beckoned across those years! So, finally, I got to Peru just two years ago.

I hope this new Wayward Travel section will offer a taste of Peru as it is now, through some of my personal experiences of the country, and also through the experience of a genuine 'Peruano' - Peruvian Victor Roman.

At a traditional market, on the road to Titicaca

This first in the Peru double bill is devoted to the capital Lima. The next will focus on the Inca heartlands of the 'Sacred Valley' sites of Cuzco and Machu Picchu (and others); and of the Peruvian Altiplano and Lake Titicaca.

As they say in Spanish: 'que tengas feliz viaje' - 'enjoy your journey'!

Flying to the land of dreams ...